Swamp Sparrows Have Stable Song Traditions that Last Up to 1,500 Years (Study)


Swamp sparrow sitting on a branch

Swamp sparrow can pass song traditions that last several hundreds of years

Humans are probably the best animals that can pass traditions and habits to the next generations. However, researchers have recently discovered we are not the only ones that do that. After performing a study on birdsongs, they discovered swamp sparrows can pass their songs from one generation to another. More precisely, their song might be about 1,500 years old.

Swamp sparrows can respect traditions as well

Swamp sparrows really have long-lasting traditions, as they can engage in an activity for several hundreds of years, while others might last even a lot more. To understand how far these habits go, researchers started studying their songs. This way, they found out some of them might be as old as the Vikings.

Swamp sparrows have different songs that achieve different purposes. Through them, they could attract their partners or warn others not to mingle with their territory. All these songs are between two and five notes long and, apparently, the birds have stuck with them for a really long time. However, these songs are still a bit different according to the area where the birds live.

These birdsongs can be up to 1,500 years old

To see how old these traditions were, researchers studied the songs sang by 615 swamp sparrows coming from six different populations across the United States. This way, they put down 160 different variations of the song. Afterwards, they looked at which songs were more likely to pass to the young ones, and how long these lasted.

After performing the simulations, researchers came up with the results. Young birds don’t seem to choose songs randomly. Instead, they go for the most widespread variations that are sung by the whole group. Also, swamp sparrows are really thorough with their traditions, as they can learn the new song with 98 percent accuracy. This explains why these chirps are so old.

Therefore, the songs we hear are not mere trends swamp sparrows follow temporarily. They can stick to one chirp for about 500 years, with the old uttering being about 1,500 years old. The study on these interesting traditions was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Image source: Flickr


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Jack Mullen

Every team needs a spirit lifter and we think we have found ours in the person of Jack Mullen. Jack always makes our readers laugh turning some of even the most somber news into an easy to read article. His references are not only amusing, but also intellectual taking readers back to some of the most important cultural events in our history.

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